For the fourth contest of the 2013-14 regular season, the fledgling Calgary Flames (1-0-2) are welcoming an old friend back to the Scotiabank Saddledome, in the form of the Montreal Canadiens (1-1-0). It’s the third game for the Habs and will be at an odd time due to TSN holding the broadcast rights – it starts at 6pm MT (on TSN), and the Fan 960 like always.
The Flames may have a more angry and bitter rivalry with the Canucks or Oilers, or they may have a more cantankerous and bizarre history with the Leafs due to a series of lopsided trades, but with the Bleu Blanc et Rouge, the rivalry means something special. The two teams met in two Stanley Cup Finals (1986 and 1989), with the Flames holding the unique distinction of being the only team in the 100-plus year history of the Montreal Canadiens franchise to go into the Montreal Forum and beat the Habs for a Stanley Cup. The teams have also dueled in a Heritage Classic in Calgary and, to be honest, first thing in the morning, with groggy eyes, their logos kind-of look the same.
All-time, the Canadiens hold the hammer, winning 54 times against the Flames franchise, although since the move to Calgary the Flames and Habs are tied at 31 wins apiece. Tonight’s game holds importance then, as it gives the winner the edge in the Calgary/Montreal life-time series.
Through three games, Flames coach Bob Hartley seems pretty happy with his team. While their execution has been a bit lacking, particularly with holding leads, any way you slice it they’ve been playing well in games they’ve played against three better teams. That’s not bad.
Because of his pleasure with his line-up, he’s not making anychanges from the group that opened the home schedule on Sunday night, although it appears lines have been slightly shuffled. Via DailyFaceoff and Sportsnet’s Roger Millions, the lines for the home side:
- Glencross – Street – Stempniak
- Galiardi – Backlund – Hudler
- Baertschi – Monahan – Jones
- Bouma – Colborne – McGrattan
- Giordano – Brodie
- Russell – Wideman
- O’Brien – Butler
Chris Breen is reportedly close to gaining medical clearance for his shoulder, which he had surgery on late last season. It remains to be seen if Calgary keeps him up, puts him on waivers to send him to the Heat or keeps him on the roster and sends him down for a conditioning stint. A conditioning stint would take up a spot on the 23-man roster, so somebody (Derek Smith?) would need to go down either way. Smith (healthy), Tim Jackman (healthy), Breen (shoulder), Matt Stajan (leg contusion) and Mike Cammalleri (hand) are the extra bodies, with Stajan and Cammalleri not yet skating with the main group.
Brian McGrattan gets his fourth straight game and joey MacDonald, despite boasting an .867 SV% in his first two games. I’m not sure just why Hartley is sticking with these two guys in particular (neither has been an ever day player at any point in their careers), but I guess we’ll see.
The Montreal Canadiens come into town with a .500 record and, unlike the Flames, some uncertainty regarding their line-up. They’ve recalled young blueliner Nathan Beaulieu from the Hamilton Bulldogs, and expect to have both Brian Gionta (who travelled to Calgary on his own) and Max Pacioretty (who missed Saturday’s game) in the line-up.
The Habs followed up a tight 4-3 loss to the Leafs in the first game (anywhere) of the season with a 4-1 win over the Flyers on Saturday. Unlike the Flames, who’ve finally had a couple days off after 3 games in 4 nights (in 3 different cities/buildings), the Habs have had a more spread-out schedule. That will stop after tonight: they play Edmonton tomorrow, Vancouver on Saturday and the Jets on Tuesday before returning home.
Per DailyFaceoff, the likely lines for tonight.
- Bourque – Plekanec – Gionta
- Galchenyuk – Eller – Gallagher
- Prust – Desharnais – Briere
- Moen – Bournival – White
- Gorges – Subban
- Markov – Diaz
- Tinordi – Bouillon
Montreal’s without George Parros and Davis Drewiske, and are currently carrying one extra forward and two extra defensemen, in contrast to the usual NHL strategy of one extra defender and two extra forwards. Ex-Flames Rene Bourque and Brandon Prust return to the ‘Dome, although ironically neither player on the Flames roster that were involved in the Bourque trade will be in the Calgary line-up (Ramo’s the back-up tonight, Cammalleri is hurt).
Lars Eller has had a really good start to the season and Bourque is going through one of his phases where he appears to be a legit top-6 guy. Montreal also have a fairly good blueline anchored by Norris winner PK Subban, Andrei Markov and Josh Gorges. They will definitely be handful.
SUM IT UP
It’s always fun when the Habs come to town, as the Saddledome is a little bit louder – and hosts a few more francophones than it usually does. Moreover, the fast and skilled Canadiens should prove a nice test for the mettle of the Flames’ work ethic. As many players have said this week, there aren’t many teams that the Flames will merely out-skill. They’ll have to win games by out-working their opposition.
They’ll have another opportunity to do that tonight.